I love crocus flowers, and if you are looking for an early spring flower for bees, crocuses are a great choice. That said, autumn flowering crocuses are available.
Crocuses can be grown in pots, in the border, or in my view, one of the best places to see them: in the lawn.
Crocuses are available in varieties, including some that will flower in autumn, whilst most flower in late winter or early spring. Both of these flowering periods are beneficial for various bee species.
As well as nectar, crocuses provide plenty of pollen.
Honey bees certainly visit crocus flowers.
Those that flower in late winter to early spring will provided much needed sustenance to foraging worker honey bees, keen to replenish the colony food stores following the cool winter months.
The early spring flowering varieties are especially valuable for early emerging queens.
The nectar will provide energy whilst the pollen will help her ovaries develop and may also be used to feed her offspring.
New generations of bumble bee queens will particularly benefit from the crocus pollen they gather from autumn flowering varieties. These new queens need to consume a fair amount of pollen in order to lay down fat reserves for their winter snooze.
Crocuses also help to feed solitary bees.
From early spring, a number of solitary bee species will emerge and begin the process of creating nest cells that will be provisioned primarily with pollen to feed emerging larvae.
As far as I am aware, pretty much all of the crocuses provide food for bees, but I tend to prefer to select for early spring flowering.
However, I can especially recommend the following:
A lovely mauve crocus, with orange styles. Flowers from February - in my view, this makes it one of the best crocuses for bees.
It's worth remembering that honey bees will brave very cool temperatures in order to find food for the colony.
Like wise, pollen is an important source of protein and lipids (fats) for bumble bee queens as they forage to provide food for their offspring.
2. Crocus tommasinianus –
Early crocus, 'Whitewell Purple'
This crocus has slender purple petals and orange stamens. It will flower from late winter to early spring, and is helpful for early foraging bees.
Highly recommended for inclusion in your winter border for bees.
3. Yellow Giant - 'Golden Yellow'
Produces large yellow flowers in spring from February to March.
Another pretty, spring-flowering yellow crocus.
5. 'Ruby Giant'
Stunning, rich purple flowers and with an orange stigma.
6. Joan of Arc
I love to see white crocus flowers peeping out between evergreen shrubs. Joan of Arc has large white flowers with purple at the base. The stigma is orange and frilly.
7. Autumn flowering crocus - Crocus speciosus
A pale mauvish, lilac crocus with dark veins.
This crocus flowers from September to November and provides late foraging bees with an additional food source.
A late protein source is especially beneficial to the new generation of queen bumble bees needing to build up fat reserves to survive the winter.
So, if you have space on a sunny lawn, or a few pots going spare, why not include some in your garden?
Yes, bees also visit the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, which flowers in autumn.
It is of course possible to harvest the delicate strands of saffron from these flowers, which can then be dried, but you’ll need a lot of corms, not to mention time, to carefully remove the delicate strands.
Crocuses are versatile, and look great in a variety of garden settings.
You can divide clumps of bulbs (actually corms) and plant elsewhere in the garden.